Friday, October 09, 2015

The Friday Round-Up: 10.09.2015

As it turned out, the northeast did not catch the full wrath of Hurricane Joaquin. Here in Boston it was cloudy, raw and windy, some rainfall, but we escaped unharmed. It got me thinking, though, about the way we name hurricanes. When I was a wee lad, my mother explained to me that hurricanes were named after women, because women, like hurricanes, were unpredictable. That made sense, because women back then actually were unpredictable . . . unlike today, where every woman I’ve met for the last 30 years has been unvaryingly reasonable and easy to anticipate, a shift that occurred right around when men started to be wrong all the time. In the seventies, a women’s rights activist named of Roxcy Bolton pushed for a less sexist hurricane nomenclature (she actually liked to call them “himmicanes”), and, due largely to her efforts, male names have been equally mixed in since 1979.
My question is, why can’t we name hurricanes like we do boats or racehorses? Or better yet, sell the naming rights like they do with sports stadiums and college bowls? For as long as a hurricane and its after-effects last, your brand could be right out there. Hurricane Google or Hurricane IKEA. The money for the naming rights (let’s put the value at the cost of fifteen minutes of Super Bowl advertising) could go directly to the recovery.
Pope Francis has made it clear that during his US visit did he not grant a private audience to Kim Davis, the thrice-divorced town clerk who refused to grant wedding licenses to same-sex couples because she’s a good Christian and thinks marriage should only apply to traditional heterosexual couples (who, by the way, stand a robust 50 percent chance of parting unto death). In fact, he doesn’t even want to get mixed up in her whole dog and pony show, so all the progressive-types who have been hating on the pope for that reason can stand down. Of course, he hasn’t reversed every Catholic rule they don’t agree with yet, so these people still aren’t happy. I am not religious, nor was I raised a Catholic, but the pope by definition is, and because he’s the pope he believes in a lot of the stuff that has been dogma for centuries. Otherwise I don’t think he could be pope. But it’s apparent that Pope Francis is at least willing to bend and listen and reach out to, say, gay people, or women who have had abortions, or victims of disgraced clergy, and so on. I like this pope, I think he’s a good man and doing the best he can, but I’ll never be surprised or dismayed that he’s Catholic.
Planet Fitness, the gym that charges ridiculously low monthly payments in the hopes that not all their members will show up at once on any given day, has the slogan “Judgement Free Zone.” I want the record to show that, first, I hate how they spell “judgment,” and, second, I would like to point out the irony of their slogan because it makes me judge them. Technically, the extraneous “e” doesn’t mean a misspelling, but it irks this typist nonetheless. And it brings to mind a rant my coworkers have endured from me for years: if enough ignorant people do something ignorant long enough, their ignorant acts become convention and they’re recast as rebels or iconoclasts. To take a recent example, remember “Web site”? The rule stated that it was two words with the first word capped. But enough people wrote it as “website” long enough and they won. I remember being taught in second grade that the plural of “bus” was “buses,” and if you wrote it out as “busses,” you were talking about more than one kiss. Well, the number of my brain cells assigned to store that information went wasted because apparently you can now write it both ways. And all those nouns that have morphed into verbs, like “dialogue” and “office”? Don’t get me started. Mark my words, the day will come when the contraction “they’re” and the possessive “their” will each be allowed the alternate spelling of “there.” U w8 & c.
I recently read Ian Fleming’s “From Russia With Love,” a book I picked up at a flea market (where I get most of my reading material). I knew that the James Bond in the books differs from the James Bond in the movies, but I didn’t expect the quality of Fleming’s writing to be so good. The book opens by acquainting the reader with the super badass bad guy, the ultimate highly-skilled, cold blooded assassin, in the kind of slow, richly descriptive way you usually don’t find in action stories, more like studying a tableau. The storyline itself is only okay (or so it seems to this modern reader), and the Russian villains are the soulless, bloodless, calculating automatons one expects from 1950s Cold War era central casting, but the measured approach the author takes to every scene, especially those revealing the thoughts of a very human Bond (who doesn’t make his first appearance until well into the book), make it a pleasurable experience. 
In a moment of uncharacteristic whimsy, I actually sought out a music station the other day instead of the usual talk or news. I landed upon the local oldies/classic hits station, and, as I enjoyed an eighties pop standard that I may have once danced to in a Members Only jacket, I tried to recollect the day when WZLX first went on the air. Before I had time to determine exactly when that was, the DJ came on to announce that 2015 marks the station’s thirtieth year. While processing this sobering reminder of the passage of time, it then occurred to me that the song I just heard couldn’t have been played on that glorious day thirty years ago because it would have been, well, brand new. A moment of quiet reflection ensued.
I have decided that when time travel becomes possible I will bring my grandfather as he was in the 1940s back to this era. Of the many new experiences I’ll expose him to, last on the list will be Caitlin Jenner and the Kardashians. I just don’t think I could adequately answer any of his questions.
Buffalo Bills players love their coach, Rex Ryan, because he “lets them be themselves.” Last Sunday, the free-spirited Bills drew 17 penalties with one negating a touchdown. They lost the game, yet Rex is proud of the way they played.
Related: NFL sources indicate that the Patriots win games because they’re mean and don’t care how other teams feel. Maybe Patriots players are pissed because Coach Bill Belichick won’t let them be themselves.
Another Yahoo editor snoozing while on duty. This is a line from a news article about a shocking child rape: “Their lawyer, Thomas R. Kline, noted that Regusters inferred others were involved but failed to name them when she had her chance Monday.” The word you’re looking for is “implied,” Yahoo. 
Here’s another one: Yahoo was “a little worried when Disney and Pixar announced they would be adding a fourth chapter to the Toy Story trilogy.” So it’s not a trilogy.
Hillary nailed that sketch on SNL.
“Sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward.” — Confucius or Matthew McConaughey. Or Plato. I need to track down the philosopher who said that.
I recently went to the bike shop to buy a tire. When the kid behind the counter rang me up, he asked me if I needed anything else. I said, “Oh, I’ll be back. I’m starting with this tire, but I’ll eventually build an entire bike around it.” He just kind of looked at me. No one gets my jokes anymore.
I hate the word “smarmy.” Get rid of it. “Snarky” bothers me, too.
There was an interesting article on leftovers in “The Atlantic Monthly.” Throughout the 20th century, as the percentage of a family’s income spent on food dropped with increased food production and lower prices, keeping and reusing leftovers became more of a burden than a necessary economic measure. Nowadays, Americans spend just 10 percent of their income on food, as opposed to 40 percent in the early 1900s. But leftovers are making a comeback because people are becoming more aware of what goes into food production and are more appreciative of the resources being used. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve always been a leftover guy . . . which, incidentally, proves once again that by steadfastly keeping behind the curve I come out ahead of it. The 15-year-old Tupperware container I use for my lunches each day is often crammed with strange combinations. Today it’s a mix of some kind of spicy pasta dish, rice, fried sweet potatoes, saag paneer and bits of fish. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
There’s a new Peter Pan movie coming out. It’s called “Pan.” I’ve seen the commercials. It’s loaded with action and special effects and Hugh Jackman and big movie studio bucks. It can’t possibly be good.
That is all.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Friday Round-Up

So I went out to the garage, chased away the raccoons, threw off the tarp, jiggered with a few things under the hood and started up the old blog. Right now she’s running a little rough, but in time I hope to have this baby humming every Friday. We’ll see.


We all have our closet likes. I’m going to be brave and tell you one of mine: “Dancing with the Stars.” I know, sorry, that may have been hard to read. It began when Heather Mills entered the dance contest five or six years ago. I was curious because the ex-Mrs. Sir Paul has a prosthetic leg and I wondered how well she would do. As it turns out, she did pretty well, but what I didn’t expect was that DWTS would become my wife’s and my show for a long time.

Unfortunately, “Dancing with the Stars” (which really has never boasted of very many real stars) has officially sunk too low for even me to watch. They’ve fiddled with the format too much, the irascible judge Len Goodman, who gave DWTS a certain measure of credibility, has left, they replaced co-host Brooke Burke with Erin Andrews for no good reason, and this time around the only “stars” I can identify are Paula Deen and Gary Busey, both of whom are mainly famous for self-detonating their careers and are maybe the hardest-to-watch celebrities this side of TMZ. So, despite the appreciation for dance I gained from having watched the show, I’m out.


Watching Donald Trump is like swimming right after eating. You know you shouldn’t, but you do it anyway. In the latter case, chances are good you won’t cramp up and drown. In the former, chances are equally good that indulging in a morbid fascination won’t lead you to take him seriously and actually vote the guy into office. But why take the risk? 


Why is every adult film actor a “porn star”? How can you differentiate if they’re all stars?


We watched “Black Mass” last Sunday. A pretty good movie despite the bad Boston accents that regrettably reduced some characters into caricatures. Every actor in the film tried to affect a Boston accent. Someone should tell Hollywood that not everybody in Boston talks that way. I don’t, my kids don’t, the people I work with don’t. 

In other news, Johnny Depp’s head made up to look like Whitey Bulger reminded me of an old illustration of Humpty Dumpty. Not the effect they were looking for, I think. 


Another movie I saw last weekend was “Pawn Sacrifice,” the story of Bobby Fischer winning the world chess championship. I was explaining to my much younger co-workers what that was like (after first explaining who Bobby Fischer was). Bobby Fischer in 1971 was a rock star. For a short period of time, the whole country went chess crazy. He was idiosyncratic, demanding, unreasonable, a total diva, but he was the best at chess the way Muhammed Ali was the best at boxing. Channel 2, the Boston public broadcasting station, very briefly hit a ratings bonanza by following the match with a panel of chess experts who discussed the moves in real time as displayed on a giant, wall-mounted chessboard. I was in the sixth or seventh grade and didn’t understand any of it, but it was fun to watch anyways. Much later in life I started playing chess with a friend during lunch breaks and had to agree that chess, especially with a clock, is the one of the most exciting games in the world.


What’s big and red and a mile long? A Boston University bus . . . in this case, a double bus that stalks the rush hour traffic up and down Commonwealth Avenue with malicious intent, making abrupt pick-up stops to the right and hair-raising lurching shove-offs to the left. Last Tuesday this bus, this Moby Dick to my Ahab, nearly smeared me into a line of parked cars as I rode my bike home from work; this infinitely long, moving red wall of steel and hurt kept me trapped in the narrowest of spaces for twenty Mississippi’s until it finally cleared past me. I later caught up to the driver at a red light. With the door closed, all she could really see was an angry cyclist yelling something maybe in English and demonstrating with his hands what six inches looks like. Then she drove away wondering what the hell was that all about.


Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He would have been 96. Dad died last New Year’s Eve day, concluding a very long, happy, successful and well-lived life. He had just spent Christmas with the entire family the week before and, although in recent years he had become quite limited, Dad seemed very content to enjoy the comfort of his home, the company and care of my mother, and the frequent visits from his children and grandkids. We should all be so lucky.


Cindy Crawford recently said, “I decided that, rather than run and hide from the fact that I'm turning 50, I would embrace it.” Wow. That took a lot of courage. In the spirit of Cindy’s brave decision, I have decided to not run and hide from turning 60, a milestone scheduled to occur this coming February. I’m already grooming myself for it. If my age ever comes up in conversation, I now say, “I’m nearly 60,” or, “60 is right around the corner.” But the truth is, I don’t feel 60. In fact, I don’t consider myself 60 like my father was 60. I’m still a kid, really, a kid with a few aches and pains and wrinkles. No gray hair though. Not yet.


That is all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Schprock Rest Cure (Results May Vary)

A while ago I read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, a novel set in a Swiss alpine sanatorium not long before the Great War began. The book has its share of symbolism, and the sanatorium is meant to be a microcosm of the world, and there are dense passages about the nature of time and motion and politics and religion and the human "organism" that are very deep. However, I would like for moment to skip all that literary stuff to simply comment on sanatorium life and how I wish I could be a patient in one.

First off, there are no sanatoriums like the one in the book anymore, and the described "rest cures" have long been proven ineffective, whether for tuberculosis or for anything else (some rest cures for the mentally ill weren't even restful). In the book, each patient has his own room with a balcony, and each balcony has a special lounge chair. Several times a day, in between five enormous meals and scheduled periods of light walking exercise, the patients must rest in these lounge chairs during all weathers. Something about the pure air and the higher elevation combined with rest was supposed to have a curative effect. In cold weather, the patients use special blankets and fur-lined sleeping bags. In extreme cases, people are confined to their beds for weeks at a time. The director of the sanatorium, a character named Dr. Behrens, is a big, hearty, hail-fellow-well-met type who tells the patients what to do with an authority that none question.

Of course, before reading this book I had already been aware of sanatoriums. I've read a couple of Somerset Maugham stories that take place in a sanatorium (Maugham actually had TB and spent time in one). In the movie Alfie, the Michael Caine character found himself in a sanatorium for a time. I believe Moe of The Three Stooges had a nervous breakdown and was sent away to a sanatorium (not the real life Moe, but the Moe in the stories). And there have been times of great stress and anguish in my life when I would have liked nothing better than to find myself wheeled out onto a daffodil-sprinkled lawn by a pretty Swiss nurse, a blanket spread over me, to simply sit and contemplate the lovely mountain scenery while sipping tea.

Of the sanatorium stories I've read, most of the patients are comfortable, ambulatory, and enjoy quite a social life. As their primary mission is to rest and get better, this leaves them plenty of time for card games, reading, intrigues, friendships, stimulating conversation, and so on. Their health is monitored and they are cared for. They are removed from the world and are, quite frankly, pampered. And, yes, although I am not proud to say it, that appeals to me.

As I mentioned, the kind of sanatorium I crave does not exist anymore, and even if one did exist, I wouldn't be able to afford to stay in it. They were expensive. But I do find the sanatorium life I read about attractive because of the promise of stress relief, the structured setting, the society of likeminded people, and the idea that taking it easy and following simple instructions like eating as much good food as you can, taking pleasant strolls and simply resting is somehow healthy and productive . . . as opposed to the notion that cloistering yourself like that might be interpreted as checking out of life or really just loafing around.

So I wondered, could ask my own inner Dr. Behrens to work up a daily rest cure, one that I could fit into my life, a systematic way of achieving a little serenity, to unplug a little? After all, I do have to work and pay bills and be responsible. I can't book a cruise or go on a retreat for the rest of my life. In fact, I have been on cruises and retreats and have found myself itchy after a few days to get back to the stress and responsibilities from which I fled.

Here is what I try to do every day:

1. Ride a bike for at least sixty minutes.

2. Take a hot shower.

3. Meditate for twenty minutes.

Nothing very elaborate or mysterious, but I wind up feeling as relaxed as an overcooked piece of linguine on a hot July day. Now, if I may jump to number three for a second, when I say "meditate," I am referring to a device I bought a few years back called Resperate, a product billed as a treatment for reducing blood pressure. For this you need to wear headphones and clip a sensor belt around your middle torso to monitor your breaths. It's basically breathing to music, music programmed to slow your respiration down as you follow it. Somehow breathing slower dilates your blood vessels, which in turn lowers your blood pressure. Not even the manufacturer completely understands why it works. Anyways, I call it "meditation made easy" because you're just following music, not focusing on a candle flame or a mantra or any of the other things that quickly defeat my tiny attention span. After some practice, I've found I can do three breaths per minute, which is really quite slow and something you necessarily have to concentrate on doing.

The cycling part isn't tough either because I commute to work by bike anyways. In the evenings, I expand my route home to 15 to 18 miles (I live only five miles from the office). It's important to note that I like cycling, it's not a chore, and I mostly find the route home pleasant despite the rush hour traffic. There are a few hills along the way to get my heart rate up and a few homicidal drivers to elevate my heart rate even higher. The point is, the aerobic activity works out a lot of the daily stress build-up and that, followed by a hot shower, primes me very nicely for meditation.

There are, of course, other things that I find restful which you can consider adjuncts to the rest cure, such as performing mindless chores while listening to an audiobook. Repetitive activities like yard work, dish washing, folding laundry and snow shoveling are especially conducive. Five-minute catnaps are also good. But really, for me, it all boils down to the three Bs: bike, bathe and breathe. And that, my friends, is how I will live to be 120.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving 1, Christmas 0

Let me ask this personal and rather leading question: isn't Thanksgiving the best holiday on the U.S. calendar? It's a matter of opinion, I know, but for a moment consider Thanksgiving as the number one holiday. Of course, ask that same question to any kid and he or she will immediately counter with Christmas or Hanukah, no doubt thinking of all the loot. A great-aunt of mine who had a passion for hats would have insisted on Easter. Many politicians would reflexively state the Fourth of July. Tree surgeons everywhere might say Arbor Day. Gyms and Jenny Craig would certainly cite New Year's Day.

But getting back to the U.S. calendar, the two biggies clearly are Thanksgiving and Christmas, with energetic nods toward Hanukah and Kwanzaa. I know that's true, because Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two holidays that profit airlines the most. People don't send Columbus Day cards and there are no songs entitled "I'll Be Home for Halloween." So as we move inexorably toward what retailers feel is the most wonderful time of the year, I think it's fair to compare the two.

In my opinion, Christmas is the most overrated, costly, and stressful of all the holidays. So much money, angst, and planning for one day out of 365 makes very little sense to me. Consider this: wasn't Christmas meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Is not “christ” the root word of Christmas? If your answer is yes, then let me ask this: are flying reindeer and happy, industrious elves part of the iconography of the Christian Church? I only inquire because I’ve never seen them on a stained glass window. And although it’s been a while since Sunday School, I don’t remember Santa Claus in the manger with the baby Jesus, unless he was traveling incognito as a wise man.

It's not news to say that Christmas has become way, way over-commercialized. To my jaundiced eye, it’s a monstrosity, a burlesque of what it once was. It’s about shopping at the last minute for stuff you can’t afford to give to people who will look at it once, shake it twice, put down and forget. It’s traffic jams and fighting over parking spaces in mall parking lots. It’s writing the same hackneyed phrase on a million Christmas cards to people you hardly ever talk to. It’s a careful gift wrapping job ripped to shreds and the thoughtful note accompanying the package cast aside unread. It’s four page statements with your Visa and MasterCard bills and credit card debt stretching from the south to the north pole.

Okay, I got a little carried away. Let's just say I'm not a fan of Christmas.

Now let's take Thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday of November is the bugle call for family, friends, and loved ones to stop what they're doing, take a breath, and gather together around a table to share a meal. Simple as that. With all the distractions that pull us apart, what could be better than a bountiful meal to promote some real face-time among the people who matter most? They're all there in person! In the same room! You can't Skype a turkey or text cranberry sauce. If someone says something funny, people can actually hear other people Laugh Out Loud. And then there's the message behind the holiday, giving thanks, pausing to consider one's blessings, acknowledging that, while life is by definition imperfect and filled with setbacks and disappointments, there still are plenty of things that go right, and one of the reasons for why things go right is because we're all in it together.

So this Thanksgiving as I lay back in my recliner after a big meal, belt unloosened, top trouser button unbuttoned, watching NFL football through sleepy, contented eyes, I will count my blessings and try not to think of the shopping season ahead. I will keep score. And right now I predict Thanksgiving will have the early lead over Christmas.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


(Lord Loser shamed me into writing a post. So this is his fault.)

Ah, yes, Halloween is fast approaching. We all have our special Halloween memories from childhood, those beloved scenes of urchins strolling about in flame-retardant costumes wearing masks whose eyeholes never quite lined up with the eyes, of the houses we all counted on to offer the lamest of treats, and, of course, those other houses with no lights on at all meant to look unoccupied, but we knew the owners were home, oh yes, we knew . . . we could picture them sitting there in the dark, tensely waiting for the loud knocks, the rapidly pressed doorbell and the splatter of eggs to end.

Cherished memories all to be sure. But lost in the nostalgic haze and crass commercialism that has come to mark Halloween is the true meaning of the holiday.

The roots of Halloween date back to when the Santa Maria and the Mayflower collided one foggy night back on October 31, 1776, off the coast of Chelsea, Massachusetts. No one knows for sure whose fault it was. Columbus and Miles Standish both swore it was the one and not the other who failed to shout the customary warning of "Halloo!" required of sailors when plying an uncertain shoreline. Squanto, who was nearby, claimed he heard nothing but the rending of wood on wood that night, and historians generally agree that neither party alerted the other to its presence. However, when Miles Standish insisted to Columbus that it was he, Standish, who remembered to shout "Halloo!" Columbus derisively fired back, "Halloo when?" in his thick Italian accent.

When Samuel Adams and Paul Revere heard the story from Squanto, with Squanto imitating Columbus' theatrics by shouting with frantic arm waves "Halloo-weenah?" as the punchline, it quickly became a favorite joke in all the taverns of Boston. If any two Bostonians got involved in a mishap, the tension was instantly defused when one victim would lift his hands up to the heavens and tragicomically ask, "Halloo-weenah?" There is even a passage in Betsy Ross's diary indicating that "Halloo-weenah?" was George Washington's favorite catchphrase.

"Halloo-weenah" took on added life during the infamous Boston Tea Party. As we know, before boarding the ship to protest the way the British spelled their words, the colonists disguised themselves. Samuel Adams went as Spider-Man and Benjamin Franklin dressed as the Incredible Hulk. As the colonists pitched each barrel of tea into Boston Harbor, they shouted "Halloo-weenah!" to "great cheering and immoderate merriment" according to the notorious pamphleteer, Thomas Paine. He later went on to write: "These are the times that try men's souls. Halloo-weenah!"

And so, from that year to this, in commemoration of the fated collision of the Santa Maria and the Mayflower, we celebrate what has now come to be known as "Halloween." No one knows where pumpkins and graveyard stuff came from.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Public Challenge to All Actors and Storytellers

Back when I used to maintain this blog, I liked to write short stories that only took ten minutes to read, the absolute limit one can ask of a blog reader. In general, they were pretty light and required practically no research. I enjoyed writing them because I think composing fiction is the nearest one can come to entering a world of fantasy, body and soul, without taking drugs, although I suppose you might get something like that with video games. The only video game I ever tried was Pong back in 1977, so I can't be sure. I know they both have to do with intense focus and loss of sense of time and space and not eating and putting off going to the bathroom. 

Anyway, I stopped writing these stories a long time ago because I got too busy. I had to start working weekends to pay the bills. But every now and again I like to go back and read these stories and, with the benefit of distance and experience, can now understand how they are all flawed and not the masterpieces I first took them to be.

If I do have a favorite it's the one about the Tuttles. I think this story is about the best I can write and I hope someday to have it performed for recording by an actor. If anyone wants to take a crack at it, let me know.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Several Random Thoughts Signifying Nothing

The Von Schprock College of Selective Knowledge

If I ever found an institution of higher learning:

The English Department will offer a course entitled "Rock 'n' Roll Grammar" which attempts to establish grammatical rules for popular music lyrics from the early 1950s to the present. A week will be spent on the Hip Hop genre alone. Expect a class devoted entirely to unraveling the group America's famous line from A Horse With No Name, "'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain."

The History Department will offer a course entitled "The Tarantino Timeline" which examines the events leading up to the conclusion of World War II and the conditions prevalent in the pre-civil war South. 

Course suggestions are welcome.


Mystery Photo ID'ed

I've noticed the above photograph floating around the internet. Obviously it's Robert DeNiro and Brenda Vacarro pictured with their love child, circa 1972. To the right is General Zod.

CORRECTION: Oops. My bad. It's a picture of the Marathon Bombers' parents with Baby Suspect Number One. 

To the right is General Zod.


This Must Stop!

Reminders of how old I am must stop. I'm reading Robert Caro's The Passage of Power from his biographical series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Okay, when I was a kid, Johnson was the president, right? This old dude who was always on the news, got me? Well guess what. When that old man assumed the presidency after JFK was assassinated, he was two years younger than I am now!


Not Their Finest Hour

I just finished Churchill's Memoirs of World War II, which is an abridgment of a much larger work. The reader quickly finds Sir Winston a very easy man to like, his writing is outstanding and often quite witty, and it's fascinating to get a view of WWII from one of its main actors. He sets the stage by beginning his story at the conclusion of World War I (some historians consider both wars one very big one with an uneasy break in the middle) and guides the reader through the politics and prosecution of the war with all the logistical headaches that go with it. You may be surprised that he is very gracious and fair to Neville Chamberlain, and in general he tries quite hard to see contrary points of view even when completely sure that his way would have been best. 

But, boy, did Stalin play the Western powers. Played us all for chumps. We had to deal with him, we had to help Russia, but in the end he took us for all we were worth. Churchill could never get the upper hand. As evil as he was, sometimes you've got to give the devil his due.